Crowdsourcing: Bringing it to the People

Hello and welcome back to another week!

During this week, our class readings focused on the topics of crowdsourcing, politics and the global impact of emerging media. Crowdsourcing is a combination of “crowd” and “outsourcing,” meaning that services or ideas can be submitted to an online community of anonymous individuals instead of a traditional panel of experts or employees. This concept opens up a whole new world of ideas and information coming from individuals who may not have the opportunity to initially contribute to the process. With the advent of social media sites, companies (and individuals) have the ability to reach out in a whole new way in the development of new ideas and in the contribution of new products. A whole new network is being formed on the Internet.

Earlier this month, NBC announced a crowdsourcing television experiment by asking viewers to submit ideas for sitcoms (More information can be found here: http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/04/08/nbc-sitcom-contest/ and here: http://time.com/55805/nbc-crowdsources-sitcom-ideas/). They are offering aspiring comedy writers the chance to pitch their ideas to an advisory panel of well-known writers, producers, actors, directors, etc. with the end result of having their project produced as a series pilot. The top ten finalists will have their pilot funded by NBC. NBC executives and the above-mentioned advisory panel will review each of the pilots. The top two pilots will have their show broadcast on NBC during the summer of 2015 with the third selected to run as a web series. The two winners could have the opportunity to have up to a six episodes run, which, if you think about it, is more than many pilot projects by well-known television producers are allotted. So why is NBC doing this? The idea behind this concept is to reach untapped talent and bring everyday people into the network television business. Out of all of this, the biggest piece of information is that NBC is allowing the audience to decide which out of the eight remaining finalists will be turned into a web series. They are taking a big leap by creating a space for individuals to contribute to broadcast television. NBC is not alone in this venture; Amazon also did this with their original programming. They made their original pilots available to viewers and are allowing them to leave feedback to decide which shows will get the green light. (More information here: http://www.examiner.com/article/amazon-crowdsourcing-picks-for-new-original-content).

So why is all of this important? It is a big step for consumers. We are starting to see media organizations opening up their doors and are listening to their consumer’s feedback. It can be seen as a rather radical move or an innovative way to make the audience participants in their entertainment. Opening up this online community is bringing some digital democracy to the consumers. I, for one, am interested in seeing how both of these experiments will develop.

The academic community is also using crowdsourcing. This past week I attended the Alabama Library Association Annual Convention in Huntsville. During the Closing Session, keynote speaker, Jason Griffey, touched on the topic of crowdsourcing as it relates to libraries. One of the examples he used is the Twitter hashtag, “#icanhazpdf.” The purpose of this hashtag is for individuals seeking particular PDF files to tweet the article they are seeking (including the hashtag) and another individual responds with the file in question. He coined this hashtag as a form of “guerrilla ILL” (interlibrary loan), which means that individuals are bypassing libraries and going straight to crowdsourcing on Twitter to find their information. This is slowly making Twitter a huge open source library of PDF files and taking crowdsourcing to a whole new level. There are legal concerns with this because individuals may be receiving articles that are copyright protected or are not from the original author. It is an interesting form of crowdsourcing, but take it from a librarian: to be safe, come to your library and we will do all the searching and heavy lifting for you if it is not available in the library!

Moving past corporations and academics, crowdsourcing has moved past the creation of products and the sharing of information to the funding of these products and ideas. Sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allows people to raise money to fund projects or events. Many wonderful projects have benefited from these sites, projects that may never have seen the light of day without the support they received from individual supporters. In my first leadership discussion assignment, I mentioned the product, XY Find-It, which was seeking funding on Kickstarter. After checking their Kickstarter page, this project was officially funded seven days ago (April 20) and is now available for purchase. Individuals can also benefit from crowdfunding. For instance, I have a friend from college that signed up on GoFundMe to help pay for a conducting symposium this summer. He was fortunate to reach his goal, and is now able to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia and Tallinn, Estonia for the symposium. Without the help from this site, he would have been unable to attend the symposium, which is a huge opportunity to benefit his future career.

Thinking back, I have used crowdsourcing techniques in my job by heading to Twitter (and Facebook) to ask the librarian community questions. I have found a large number of librarians on both sites all of whom are ready and available to help answer questions. For instance, last March the cataloging field implemented new rules for cataloging. Librarians on Twitter started using specific hashtags related to these new rules that could be used for “throwing out questions” to each other. This became extremely useful in connecting with liked-minded individuals in my profession. Through these simple 140 character interactions, people were not only able to get their questions answered quickly, but they also made a new professional connection in the field.

Crowdsourcing can be used in any number of ways. From developing products to getting information to funding opportunities, the possibilities are endless. The power of crowdsourcing has turned the “ordinary individual” into someone who is helping to develop the next groundbreaking project or idea.

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One thought on “Crowdsourcing: Bringing it to the People

  1. I enjoyed reading your writing. It was very informative. It is good to hear that NBC is using crowdsourcing to find new talent to develop new shows. I am also glad to know that the library is embracing crowdsourcing to reintroduce the advantages of the library. Crowdsourcing does have “power” in turning “ordinary people” dreams into reality.

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